Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, declined to comment on whether the Chinese government would launch an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Peng against former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli. He echoed previous comments made to reporters, saying Peng’s situation “was not a diplomatic matter”.
His comments echo those of a prominent editor of the Chinese state-run newspaper on Tuesday. “Some Western forces are forcing Peng Shuai and an institution, forcing them to help demonize China’s system,” Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on Twitter.
Peng, a two-time Grand Slam champion and one of China’s top tennis players, publicly accused Zhang of forcing him to have sex at his home, according to screenshots of a deleted social media post. dated November 2nd.
WTA chief Steve Simon threatened to withdraw from China if Peng was not considered and her allegations were not investigated.
The IOC did not give CNN access to the video, but said in a statement that Peng insisted she was “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like her privacy to be respected at this time”.
The phone call, which reportedly lasted 30 minutes, appeared to be Peng’s first known direct contact with officials outside China since he made the allegations.
Amnesty International said the IOC was “entering dangerous waters” with the video phone.
“They must be extremely careful not to participate in uncovering any possible human rights violations,” said Alkan Akad, Amnesty International’s China researcher.
The WTA also renewed its request for an investigation following the call.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in the latest videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA’s concern for its well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a spokesman told CNN in a statement.
“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent, uncensored investigation into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that caused our initial concern.”
Chinese authorities have denied Peng’s allegations against Zhang and there is no indication that an investigation is under way. It remains unclear whether Peng reported her allegations to police.
Zhang has maintained a low profile and has faded from public life since his retirement in 2018, and has no public information about his current whereabouts.
In China, top party leaders like Zhang are usually beyond public scolding, even when retired. As deputy prime minister, Zhang served on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, the country’s supreme governing body, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
CNN Bureau in Beijing contributed to the report.
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